The press release remains an effective public relations tool to distribute news and start conversations. But simply issuing a release doesn’t mean you’ve engaged your target audience or successfully communicated your message. That's where press release SEO comes in.
Aside from telling compelling stories about your business through clear, concise writing, it is critical to use search engine optimization (SEO) to optimize your press releases. Without focusing on press release SEO, your news will perform less effectively in search, and will be less appealing and engaging to audiences.
Why Is Press Release SEO Important?
The headlines that most consumers read are accessed from queries on search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, which in turn pull them from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. This means that news releases must be designed with SEO in mind.
In the past, the embedded links that channeled link equity back to the target URLs (e.g., your corporate website) were an important part of what made an optimized press release so valuable. It was a convenient and easy way for optimizers to manufacture authoritative links and inflate the value of their link profile, driving up their rankings.
But Google’s algorithm has been tweaked over the years to punish these exploitative tactics, neutralizing the impact of those phony links.
That doesn’t mean that the value of press release SEO has been eliminated—it’s simply been changed. An engaging, well-optimized release encourages other credible sources to construct their own content based on that release (i.e., write a story about your announcement).
Ultimately, this is where press releases can deliver real value: by building awareness, building an audience, getting people talking, and garnering earned media for your organization.
The Importance of a Good Keyword Strategy
The first step in drafting any well-optimized press release is to identify your target audience and build out a keyword portfolio that aligns with the message you want to convey.
While it may be tempting to get the substance of your release on paper first and fit your keywords in afterwards, the result often reads as stilted and inauthentic. Readers can perceive when terms have been shoehorned into a piece where they otherwise don’t belong, and you should ultimately be writing for readers, not search engines.
It’s much more practical to start by gathering the terms that should figure prominently in your release than it is to write without those terms already in mind. The result will be a more organic and well-written (and therefore better optimized) press release that builds your company’s credibility as a news source.
It’s worth emphasizing here that this exercise is less about ranking for specific keywords than it is about choosing your keyword phrases intelligently and then using them to capture interest and build an audience—that should be the ultimate goal of a press release.
What Is Your Audience Searching For?
An important part of press release SEO involves segmenting potential keywords into separate categories. A keyword category is a topic, product, or story that people use search engines to find out more about.
Initial keyword categories are easier to predict, provided that your press release is on a rather straightforward subject, such as the disclosure of financial results or the announcement of a new location.
If you’re writing a press release for ACME Corporation (a fictional widget manufacturer) announcing its third quarter results, it’s easy to get a sense of what most of your readers will be searching for: “ACME third quarter results” or “ACME Q3 2021 earnings.” Good keyword categories for this release would be general ideas such as: “Q3 ACME,” “third quarter ACME,” and “ACME earnings.”
Of course, there are many other kinds of press releases that demand the use of different keyword categories. If your release is about a product or service launch, consider:
- The name of the product.
- The kind of product it is, plus its main selling point.
Example: If you’re a financial institution promoting a new form of overdraft protection, try “low-fee overdraft protection.” In many cases, customers will be searching for a version of your product or service that is either low in cost or high in quality.
If your release is about an executive appointment, consider:
- The year, the name of your company, and the title of the position being filled.
- The names of the executive being replaced and the person replacing him or her.
- The name of the new executive’s former employer if he or she was hired from another company or institution.
If your release is about an acquisition, consider:
- “(First Company Name) Merger with (Second Company Name).”
- The name of your industry, plus “merger,” plus the current year. If any of these seem obvious, it’s because they should be. Creating your keyword categories ought to be a simple act of word association that identifies what your readers are looking for on a fundamental level.
Identify Niche Keyword Categories
After you’ve found these basic categories, you must also seek out a few good “niche” categories – search terms that a more select group of readers would use and that could earn significantly more clicks.
These long-tail queries can take a bit of research, and it helps to think critically about who your audience is and what they want. Fortunately, there are several useful tools that take much of the guesswork out of keyword planning.
Autocomplete (Search Assist)
As soon as you type something into almost any search engine, this feature (called Autocomplete for Google and Bing, Search Assist for Yahoo!) will instantly suggest four to 10 potential search queries. It provides a quick and easy way to find out what people are searching for and how it’s related to your company or the story you’re telling.
Google Ads Keyword Planner
The Google Ads Keyword Planner is the industry standard in SEO tools, able to deliver millions of potential keyword combinations with data that is highly accurate and objective. While the platform was designed with marketers in mind, it remains an indispensable tool for all communications professionals.
Keyword Planner is a free tool; to use it, you only need to have a Google Ads account.
The Google Ads Keyword Planner can be useful in several areas of SEO research:
1. Search for new keyword ideas.
If you haven’t done your keyword category brainstorming yet, or if you need some more fresh ideas, this will be an incredibly useful tool for you. Type in the keyword ideas you already have to get related keywords, enter your landing page to get keywords specific to your company, and input your industry in order to get crucial “niche” keywords.
2. Get the search volume for a list of keywords.
Once you’ve got your long list of keywords, punch them into this tool to see exactly what the search volume is for each. This will allow you to see which keywords are higher priority. If you see something that’s awkwardly written but gets a lot of searches, it might be worthwhile to try and work it into your release.
When selecting keyword phrases generated by Google Ads, keep in mind that the terms with very high search volumes are commonly entered, but very difficult to win. Many keywords are simply too popular. Setting realistic goals and expectations is a crucial part of any keyword strategy.
For example, let’s say that you’ve decided to create a startup shop in Manhattan selling beautiful, handcrafted kitchen furniture. You’re not going to attempt to build awareness that your company sells “furniture.” The major retailers are known for “furniture,” and it’s not realistic to expect to dislodge them from that SEO position. Instead, you’d do well to go after niche terms like “handcrafted artisan kitchen furniture.” It’s an SEO keyword phrase you can realistically hope to achieve, and it best suits your offering.
You should also strive to create unique content that will appeal to a niche audience. Try to choose industry-specific keywords with moderate search volumes that are related to more coveted, general keywords. This method results in what are referred to as nesting doll keywords.
A nesting doll keyword is a long-tail keyword that contains other, more general keywords within it. This allows you to maximize the overall SEO value of your press release and score for high-volume keywords that might not otherwise have been worth aiming at.
For instance, it’s much easier to score for “European watch repair” than it is for “watch repair.” But by using the first, you’re able to score for both. The same goes for “watch repair” and “watch.” The lesson here: nesting dolls allow you to make the most out of your limited space on the page.
Regardless of whether you use the Google Ads Keyword Planner or some other tool, remember: the idea is to choose your keyword phrases intelligently and then use them to capture interest and build an audience. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be on the right path.
Thanks for reading part one of our press release optimization series. Get more tips in part two.
GlobeNewswire Press Release Distribution by Intrado Digital Media
At Intrado Digital Media, we provide press release distribution to companies of all sizes and help businesses effectively reach and engage the media, investors and consumers.
Whether you're a Fortune 50 firm or a three-man startup, we can help you share your stories quickly and efficiently across digital channels.